Can You Workout with a Herniated Disc?

If you have a herniated disc, you may be wondering if it’s still possible to workout. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Herniated Discs

A herniated disc occurs when a tear in the tough outer shell of a spinal disc allows the soft inner tissue to bulge out. This can cause a great deal of pain as the disc presses against a nerve in the spine. It is important to understand how herniated discs work in order to determine if it is safe to do any physical activity. In this section, we will go over the anatomy of a herniated disc and the types of activities that are recommended for those who have one.

What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc is pushed out of alignment, typically as a result of aging or an injury. The affected disc will then press against a nerve root and cause pain in the lower back and/or areas connected to the spine. A herniated disc can also be referred to as a bulging, slipped, or ruptured disc and may occur at any level of the spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (upper and mid-back), lumbar (lower back) and sacral (tailbone).

When it comes to limitations for activities that can be done with a herniated disc, it is important to understand the severity or degree of injury sustained in order to make appropriate judgment. In circumstances where there is no surgical proceeds due to risk of further injury, conservative treatment including medication, rest, physical therapy and chiropractic care can help alleviate pain associated with herniations. It is recommended that you speak with a physician before returning to any workout regimen while dealing with a herniation.

What causes a herniated disc?

Herniated discs are a painful condition that affects the spine. They occur when the outer layers of one of the vertebrae in the spine become injured or weakened, causing some of the cushioning between them to escape through a tear or break in its outer wall. This can cause damage to surrounding nerves and lead to symptoms such as nerve pain, discomfort, and even muscle weakness in some cases.

Herniated discs can be caused by age-related wear and tear, trauma, heavy lifting, over-extended exercise or activities that involve twisting or stretching too far or too quickly. Even obesity and poor posture may increase your risk of experiencing a herniated disc. Depending on where it is located in your spine, a herniated disc may also cause numbness, tingling sensations and loss of reflexes.

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

A herniated disc occurs when one of the discs located between the bones in your spine breaks or ruptures. The symptoms of a herniated disc can vary widely between individuals, and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and/ or muscle weakness in the area around the herniated disc. You may also experience difficulty with balance or coordination, especially if your leg muscles are affected. In some cases, the pain associated with a herniated disc will come and go over several months while in other cases, it may become chronic and last for many months or even years.

If you suspect that you have a herniated disc, it is important to contact your healthcare provider for diagnosis. Your provider may order diagnostic tests such as an MRI scan to check for any signs of nerve root compression or spinal cord damage caused by the ruptured disk. Once diagnosed, you can work with your provider to create a treatment plan that is most appropriate for your symptoms and lifestyle needs.

Working Out with a Herniated Disc

A herniated disc can cause a great deal of discomfort and pain, which can make it difficult to exercise. However, there are some specific exercises you can do to help with the pain and prevent further injury. In this article we will discuss the pros and cons of workout with a herniated disc, so you can make an informed decision about your health.

Types of exercises to avoid

When dealing with a herniated disc, it is important to be aware of the types of exercises to avoid. High-impact activities can cause increased pain, inflammation and further damage to the structure of the spine. Therefore, any exercise that involves jumping, running or sudden changes in direction should be avoided or modified. It is also important to stay well hydrated during any type of exercise program as dehydration can lead to muscle strain and/or spasm in the lower back area.

Also, certain weight lifting exercises should be avoided such as abdominal crunches and bent-over rowing because they place strain on your back muscles and spinal discs. Instead, focus on core stabilization exercises that require postural control while working the rectus abdominus (abs), obliques (side abdominal muscles), and transverse abdominus (deep core). Examples include bird dogs, planks triceps dips on a bench, single-leg bridging and pelvic tilts. Pilates is also an beneficial form of low impact exercise for those looking to strengthen their core muscles without compressing the spine too much. Finally, swimming is a great way to work out without putting stress on your back; however be sure to stay away from stroke styles or flips that could cause risk for further injury or exacerbation of pain symptoms.

Low-impact exercises to try

Whether you’re newly diagnosed with a herniated disc or attempting to manage the condition, it is important to explore low impact exercises that can help alleviate your pain. Taking part in any type of exercise can have additional benefits for mental health and well-being, so it’s worth attempting if it feels comfortable.

Low-impact exercises to try:
-Swimming. This provides resistance with minimal stressing on your joints. Remember to never do any dive-related moves that can place excessive stress on your back.
-Yoga and Pilates. Well designed routines, allowing you room to choose body positions that feel sufficiently comfortable, these activities give you ways to use controlled movement as therapy for your herniated disc condition.
-Cycling outdoors or stationary bike workouts: Cycling gently and consistently can reduce the unnecessary pressure on your back while reaping the rewards of a good cardio workout.
-Walking: There is no harm in going for a light stroll; brisk walking has proven cardio effects without placing too much strain on your lower back area. Respect when enough is enough and ensure you are hydrated before embarking on longer speeds of walking outside or indoors when necessary!

When to see a doctor

If you have an injured disc or if your symptoms are severe and/or persist, it is important to see a doctor. They will perform a physical exam and may order imaging (such as MRI) tests to get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend additional treatments like medications, injections, physical therapy and/or surgery depending on the severity of the injury.

It is also important to talk with your doctor about exercising with a herniated disc before starting any new exercise routine. Different types of exercises will put different levels of stress on your spine and the damaged disc, so it’s important to understand which activities you can do safely and how much intensity is safe for you.

Treatment Options

A herniated disc is a condition that occurs when the cushioning material between two vertebrae in the spine bulges, ruptures or tears, causing pain and other symptoms. Treatment options for a herniated disc depend largely on the severity of the injury and the amount of pain the individual is experiencing. In many cases, physical therapy and exercise are prescribed in order to reduce pain and improve mobility. Before starting any type of exercise program, however, it is important to speak to a medical professional about the best type of treatment for your condition.


Medication is often used in combination with physical therapy or exercise to treat a herniated disc. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce the inflammation associated with this condition. This can help reduce pain, improve function and allow you to become more active once again. Additionally, some patients may need muscle relaxants or narcotic medications to temporarily control their pain levels while they focus on rehabilitation. However, it is important that these medications are used sparingly and only for short periods of time because of the potential for dependency and side effects. Additionally, some patients may find relief from over-the-counter topical creams and ointments that can be applied directly to the back. These treatments can make a huge difference in alleviating your symptoms and getting you back on track with your treatment plan and exercise goals.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy modalities are common treatment options for herniated discs. Physical Therapy will aim to build strength and increase mobility of the spine and any connected areas, such as the hip muscles, to relieve pain related to the disc. Exercises such as walking, core stabilization, gentle stretching and postural exercises are frequently recommended. Activity modification for those with herniated discs may include avoiding bending or twisting actions, including sitting for long periods of time or participating in rigorous activities that can cause further wear on the spine and any involved structures. A physical therapist should design a program specifically tailored to each individual patient’s needs while also factoring in age, medical history, prior physical activity levels and severity of injury before beginning an exercise plan.


Surgery is a common method of treating a herniated disc when other nonsurgical treatments fail to provide relief. Depending on the patient’s health and the severity of the herniation, different types of surgery can be employed.

Discectomy : This type of surgery involves removing part or all of the intervertebral disc that has herniated. The surgeon often performs this type of surgery from an open incision in the patient’s lower back.

Microdiscectomy: Another minimally invasive option for patients with a herniated disc is microdiscectomy . During this procedure, a small incision is made in the lower back, and only the damaged portion of the disc is removed.

Laminotomy: Another surgical option for treatment of a herniated disc involves laminotomy , which is an open procedure that involves removing portions of one side of each vertebrae affected by the disc herniation. The goal with laminotomy to keep as much healthy tissue intact while providing relief from pressure caused by the displaced nucleus pulposus material.

Spinal fusion : If two or more vertebrae have been affected by a herniated disc, spinal fusion may be performed to correct any damage and ease discomfort. During this procedure, several vertebrae are fused together using screws and rods, providing stability to help return function to lost regions and relieving pressure between discs.

Pain management technologies : A variety of pain management technology options are available as treatment for those with a herniated disk who do not want traditional surgeries like discectomy or laminectomy . These can range from medications administered through injections to neuromodulation therapies that deliver electric currents through implanted electrodes for long-term pain management options .

Prevention Tips

It is important to be mindful when exercising with a herniated disc in order to prevent further injury. Practicing proper body mechanics and avoiding stretching too deeply can help to keep your back safe while still allowing you to work out. Additionally, there are certain exercises that can be beneficial, as well as others that should be avoided. In this section, we will discuss these prevention tips in more detail.

Improve your posture

When it comes to preventing a herniated disc, proper posture is essential. Poor posture puts more pressure on your lower back and neck area, leading to poor alignment and an increased risk of herniation. To prevent lower back pain and help reduce the chance of a disc bulge or herniation, aim to maintain an upright position while sitting in chairs, standing and lifting. To begin improving your posture, focus on three basic movements: lengthening the spine, tucking your tailbone slightly under and engaging your core muscles.

Additionally, you can use ergonomically designed furniture that offers adequate lumbar support when you’re sitting for long periods at home or work. It’s important to avoid hunching forward or slouching over ver often as this can put undue stress on the cervical discs in your neck as well. Monitor the garments you are wearing during physical activity – too tight clothing like jeans can restrict movement which further strains your spinal muscles. Regular stretching exercises are also key for maintaining good mobility if you experience regular discomfort in any part of your spine.

Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is critical when living with a herniated disc. When you’re carrying around more weight than necessary, it places an even greater amount of pressure on your spine, leading to pain and strain. To determine if you are at a healthy weight, calculate your body mass index (BMI) and assess what it means for the health of your spine. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, while 25 to 29 indicates overweight and 30 to 39 represents obesity according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of lower back problems including herniated discs, so take steps now to ensure that your BMI falls within the normal range — or lower.

Lifestyle changes like eating smaller portions, paying attention to portion sizes during meals and snacks, eating fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal, drinking plenty of water before snacking or mealtime and selecting nutrient dense snacks instead of sugary snacks can help take off excess pounds or keep them off if you already fall into the normal range. Additionally, an exercise program that emphasizes cardiovascular routines like walking on flat surfaces or swimming may be recommended by your doctor. Avoid exercises that require movement with heavy weights or maximum compression on the spine such as workouts involving squats with heavy weights where bad form might result in injury.

Stretch regularly

Stretching is an important part of your exercise routine, especially if you have a herniated disc. The stretching helps to increase flexibility in the muscles and tendons surrounding your spine, which can help in alleviating your disc condition and reduce your risk of further back injuries. It’s best to do stretches slowly and gently, avoiding movements that cause pain or discomfort. In order to maximize the benefits of stretching, it’s important to focus on form while avoiding jerky and sudden movements.

Before beginning any stretching program it’s best to find out from your doctor which exercises are appropriate for you as well as how often you should stretch. A set routine of gentle stretches should be done prior to engaging in physical activity such as running or weight-lifting. To stretch properly:

-Stand comfortably with good posture;
-Lift one foot up slightly off the ground;
-Bend that shin forwards towards you, keeping it relaxed;
-Hold for 10 seconds;
-Move onto the other foot and repeat five times.


Exercising with a herniated disc can be very beneficial, as it can engage and strengthen the surrounding core muscles. However, it is important to seek medical advice before starting a workout program if you are suffering from a herniated disc. Depending on the severity of your condition, different exercises may or may not be recommended. It is generally advised that low-impact exercises and stretching should be done first, such as walking, water aerobics, yoga or cycling on an exercise bike. Strengthening exercises like weightlifting and Pilates can help maintain healthy muscle strength in the back area; however, they should not be attempted without proper guidance from a physician or physical therapist. It is also important to watch for signs of increased herniation such as lower back pain or leg symptoms during or after exercise. By following the recommendations of your doctor and taking all necessary precautions when exercising with a herniated disc, you can continue to have an active lifestyle while avoiding further pain or injury.

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